Rainer Arnhold Fellowship


Annual Design Course

The course brings Fellows and faculty together for an intensive week to work on design for maximum impact and scalability. Held in a retreat center on the coast in Bolinas, California, the course gives Fellows the rare opportunity to focus completely on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them. It has five components:

  • A design-for-maximum impact workshop
  • Prepared 10-minute pitch presentations by each Fellow, both to communicate their work to the group and to develop a key communications resource
  • Curated 1:1 and small-group session between Fellows and faculty
  • Short sessions by Fellows and faculty around critical shared issues like fundraising, hiring, board development, behavior change marketing, and building a high-performance organization
  • Individual design sessions focused on impact that can go to scale

What We Look For

People who are a good fit for the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program have:

  • A big and compelling problem to tackle
  • An idea that feels scalable
  • An entrepreneurial personality and track record
  • An obsession with going to scale
  • An organization up and running, even if very small
  • Senior decision-making authority (usually an Executive Director or CEO)
  • A desire to tackle the process of scalable design
  • A full understanding of our design process and tools
  • And most importantly, openness to new ideas and the willingness to change course

We actively recruit Fellows through our network, so we do not have a formal application process. We are happy to hear from people who feel that they fit the above description (or suggestions for someone who might).

Design for Impact


Our Approach to Design

Impact comes from people doing something differently, so our approach to design starts with impact and focuses on the behavior change needed to get it. We work with many organizations to design what they do for maximum impact, but most of our work is through our Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program. Our Fellows are social entrepreneurs with poverty solutions that we think could make a big difference in the world. We work together formally for two years and use a systematic set of tools to drive a series of iterations on the original idea.

Our approach to design is driven by an obsessive focus on impact, and – from a change in behavior. To make an idea better, we start with three things:

1. clarity about the intended impact,

2. a map of the behaviors it will take to make it happen, and

3. an understanding of what makes a model scalable

From there, we work with our Fellows to understand the best ways to drive the needed behaviors and how to craft them into a systematic, scalable model. This model becomes the vehicle for the kind of continuous tinkering and iteration it takes to achieve maximum impact.

Design Process

The first thing the Fellows do is to put their idea into a template that will serve as a vehicle for initial design and interval re-design. The template -- known as the Design Iteration Format, or DIF -- takes the user through a series of steps to a detailed impact model, and then serves as the vehicle of an ongoing process of iterative redesign. While focused on the impact model, the DIF also helps Fellows work through the organizational and financial models – how to deliver the impact model and how to pay for it. Once the initial formatting is completed, Fellows work directly with staff at six-month intervals to incorporate new information, lessons, and ideas into their formatted design. You can access the DIF here.